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Journal of the South African Veterinary Association

versão On-line ISSN 2224-9435
versão impressa ISSN 1019-9128

J. S. Afr. Vet. Assoc. vol.93 no.1 Pretoria  2022 



A review of pig and poultry diseases in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa, 2000-2020



V SimbiziI, II; R MoeraneII; G RamsayIII; C MubambaIV; C AbolnikII; B GummowII, V

IDepartment of Rural Development and Agrarian Reform, State Veterinary Services, South Africa
IIDepartment of Production Animal Studies, Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Pretoria, South Africa
IIISchool of Animal & Veterinary Sciences and Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation, Charles Sturt University, Australia
IVDepartment of Veterinary Services, Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries, Zambia
VDiscipline of Veterinary Sciences, College of Public Health, Medical and Veterinary Sciences, James Cook University, Australia





The informal poultry and pig sector in the Eastern Cape Province (ECP) of South Africa is of significant socio-economic importance as it sustains livelihoods and ensures food security; yet little is known about the distribution and prevalence of infectious and zoonotic diseases in this region. This paper reviews data published for pig and poultry diseases in the province during the last 20 years (2000-2020). The review included relevant published papers identified by a computerised literature search from Web of Science; provincial animal health reports; the national database from the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD); animal health reports submitted by DALRRD to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) via the World Animal Health Information Database (WAHID) interface and laboratory records. A publication was considered eligible if it included qualitative or quantitative information on any disease affecting pigs and poultry including zoonosis. The search retrieved 174 publications, of which 26 were relevant. The review found that Newcastle disease (ND), coccidiosis and fowl pox (FP) were the most reported avian diseases in the national database, whereas avian infectious bronchitis (AIB), ND and highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) were the most reported diseases in the OIE database. Classical swine fever (CSF) was the most reported pig disease in both databases. The retrieved literature on pig and poultry diseases was scarce and no longer up to date, providing decision makers with little information. The review identified important zoonotic diseases that require further studies yet failed to find information on important neglected diseases like leptospirosis.

Keywords: pig, poultry, diseases, zoonotic, Eastern Cape Province, review.




Transboundary animal diseases are highly contagious epidemic diseases that can spread extremely rapidly, irrespective of national borders. They cause mortality and morbidity in animals, thereby having serious socio-economic and sometimes public health consequences (FAO, 2020). The Eastern Cape is the second largest province in South Africa after Northern Cape (Figure 1). It is divided into two metropolitan municipalities and six district municipalities. The district municipalities are in turn divided into 27 local municipalities. The human population is estimated to be 6 734 001 (STATS, 2020) with the density of 39/km2. The main industries include agriculture and mining (primary sector), which contribute 2% to the provincial GDP; manufacturing, electricity and construction (secondary sector) contributing 18.5% to the GDP; trade, transport, finance, personal services and government services (tertiary sector) contributing 79.5% to the GDP (ECSECC, 2018). Overall the province only contributes 8% to the national GDP (STATS, 2018). The Eastern Cape Province (ECP) is economically the poorest province in South Africa where subsistence agriculture predominates in the former homelands.

Livestock plays a major role in the social, cultural and economic environment in the province. The Eastern Cape is among the lowest pork and poultry producing provinces with 6% and 6.5% of total production countrywide respectively (DAFF, 2018, SAPA, 2017). These production statistics are mainly commercial and do not include backyard chickens (indigenous chickens) and free roaming pigs owned by many households in the province. The informal pig and poultry sector in the ECP is estimated to have 3 841 174 birds and 536 108 pigs (STATS, 2016). Apart from being a source of income for many households, pigs and poultry constitute a cheap source of protein for rural communities and ensures food security.

However, little has been published on what diseases are present in these animals within the province. Due to financial constraints, animal disease detection in the province is mainly dependent on passive surveillance in village communities ( Fisher 2018, personal communication). This constitutes a major challenge since some diseases are being underreported or are not reported. Also, the province does not have animal health information systems which could help for the collection and analysis of animal health data. Such animal health information is recognised as necessary for the setting of animal health priorities (Morris, 1991). Therefore, a systematic review of peer-reviewed articles, animal health reports and laboratory records compiling information on pig and poultry diseases in the province is presented with the view of identifying diseases of pigs and poultry kept within these rural communities. This will help decision makers to prioritise resources for animal disease surveillance and control in these communities once animal health information is available.



A review was carried out on what has been published on diseases of pigs and poultry in the ECP over the last 20 years (2000-2020). The review included relevant published papers identified by a computerised literature search of all databases (WOS, BCI, CABI, CCC, DRCI, DIIDW, FSTA, KJD, MEDLINE, RSCI, SciELO and ZOOREC) from Web of Science (Appendix 7), which is the global standard for finding and connecting scholarly content across multiple disciplines around the world; monthly reports on the animal health situation submitted by the Directorate of Veterinary Services in the province to the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD); the national database from DALRRD; official animal health reports submitted by DALRRD to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and laboratory records from three provincial laboratories (Grahamstown, Middleburg and Queenstown).

Search strategy

All databases from Web of Science

All databases mentioned above were searched for published articles on pig diseases in the province from 2000 to 2020 using the following key words: Pigs OR Pig OR Swine OR Porcine (Search 1); Diseases (Search 2) and "Eastern Cape" OR (east* AND cape*) (Search 3).

Search 1, search 2 and search 3 were combined and all the published papers relevant to pig diseases in the ECP were selected.

The same search strategy was used for poultry and all databases were searched for published articles on poultry diseases in the province from 2000 to 2020 using the following key words: Chickens OR Chicken OR Poultry (Search 1); Diseases (Search 2) and "Eastern Cape" OR (east* AND cape*) (Search 3).

National database from DALRRD

The national database from DALRRD comprises all the disease reports from each province in South Africa. Each province consolidates different disease reports from the state veterinarians on a monthly basis. The Animal Diseases Act (35 of 1984) requires that all occurrences of controlled and notifiable diseases be reported to the national directorate. For other diseases and vaccinations, the national directorate requests provinces to include them in monthly reports for OIE reporting purposes and to serve as indication of the presence and prevalence of these diseases. Some diseases that are not controlled can still have trade implications (DAFF, 2016). The final report from each province is then submitted to the epidemiology section of DALRRD, which in turn, compiles and updates its national database. All disease reports from the ECP were reviewed from 1999 to 2019. The national database comprises diseases that were reported from 1993 to 2019.

WAHID interface

All official animal health reports submitted by DALRRD to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) were reviewed via the World Animal Health Information Database (WAHID) interface (OIE, 2020b) from 2005 to 2020.

Laboratory records at three provincial laboratories

Laboratory records were used to select pig and poultry diseases that were diagnosed at each of the three provincial laboratories in the province (Queenstown, Middleburg and Grahamstown).

Eligibility criteria

Inclusion criteria

A publication was considered eligible for this review if it included qualitative or quantitative information on any disease (bacterial, viral, parasitic and fungal) affecting pigs or poultry in the ECP. To have a wide range of reported diseases in the province, diseases affecting pigs or poultry from commercial farms were also included. Diseases affecting "poultry" other than chickens were also included. Finally, zoonotic diseases were also included in this review.

Exclusion criteria

Duplicate articles were excluded. Different references from the same study were counted as one reference irrespective of the format in which they were published (article, proceedings, workshop, etc.). The inclusion and exclusion criteria were applied to the title and abstract of all retrieved references.

Data collection process

The data collection process was undertaken in two steps. First, basic information was collected from all retrieved articles to assess which diseases have been reported in the province. For this basic analysis, the following information was systematically recorded: the publication date, the district, the species, the disease, the type of causative agent (bacteria, virus, parasite, alga, toxins, tumour, fungi, etc.), whether or not the reference focus was of a zoonotic disease, and the type of study (case report, case series, review or survey). In a second step, considering that the objective of this review was to obtain a better understanding of the current pig and poultry disease situation in the ECP, only documents published or written in the last 20 years were selected to focus on the most recent information. A more detailed analysis of the key findings from these references was then performed. The number of reported outbreaks for each disease was used to determine which disease was more frequently reported than others.



Selected references and characteristics

The search strategy retrieved 174 publications, of which 26 were relevant based on the inclusion and exclusion criteria (Table I and Table II). Eighteen references were surveys (69.2%), four were case reports (15.4%), one was a conference paper (3.8%) and three were general papers describing a particular disease nationally with little data provided for the ECP (11.5%). The majority of references provided data on diseases for pigs (84.6%), whereas references for poultry represented 15.4%. A paper on both chicken and pig disease was represented by three references (11.5%). Seventy-seven per cent of the references referred to zoonotic diseases. The following zoonotic diseases (or agents) were found in this review: Hepatitis E virus; Enterococcus, Salmonella, E. coli, cysticercosis, chlamydiosis, campylobacteriosis, norovirus, avian influenza, Newcastle and nocardiosis (Appendix 1).

Selected diseases from national database, OIE and laboratories records

A total of 14 diseases (10 poultry diseases and four pig diseases) were retrieved from the national database (Table III). Poultry diseases were subdivided into three categories: viral, bacterial and protozoal diseases (Figure 3). Viral diseases were most often reported (135 reported outbreaks representing 73% of all the outbreaks) followed by protozoal diseases (37 outbreaks; 20%) and bacterial diseases (13 outbreaks; 7%) (Figure 3). Among viral diseases, Newcastle disease (ND) was the most reported disease in the ECP with 103 outbreaks in the past 20 years followed by fowl pox (FP) with 18 outbreaks; avian leukosis (AL) with nine outbreaks; Gumboro and avian infectious bronchitis (AIB) with two outbreaks each and avian infectious laryngotracheitis (AIL) with one outbreak (Figure 2).









For pig diseases, classical swine fever (CSF) had the most reported outbreaks among pig diseases (99 outbreaks representing 93.4%), followed by cysticercosis (four outbreaks representing 3.8%), swine erysipelas (two outbreaks representing 1.9%) and coccidiosis (one outbreak representing 0.9%) (Figure 4).

A total number of nine diseases were retrieved from the OIE database (Table IV). The most reported poultry diseases from 2005 to 2020 were AIB and ND (reported seven times) (Table IV) followed by highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) (reported six times). For pig diseases, the most reported disease was CSF (Table IV). Additional information on diseases prevalent in the province was obtained from the provincial laboratories despite the fact that these laboratories did not have much information on pigs and poultry diseases over the past twenty years (Appendices 4, 5 and 6).




Data limitations

Despite the economic importance of the pig and poultry sectors in the ECP, this study found very little published information on pig and poultry diseases in the province over the past 20 years, which made it difficult to conduct a meta-analysis, as was our first intention. Also, the available published information lacked quantitative data which could help to estimate the apparent prevalence of any reported disease in the province. The national database could provide different categories of qualitative data (the status of a particular animal disease being present or absent; the species, the year in which the disease was detected, the affected area and the number of the reported cases), whereas the WAHID interface could only provide the status of the animal disease being present or absent, the species and the period (year and month) in which the disease was detected. Hence, this paper gathered information on diseases from ECP using both the national and the WAHID databases and assessed the validity of the information by comparing the findings from both.

The lack of census data in the province prevented the calculation of disease rates and comparison of years or any predictive modelling of the diseases of economic importance like ND as was performed in Zambia (Mubamba et al. 2016). These constraints limited the work presented in this paper to a descriptive review of the data available on pig and poultry diseases in the ECP but served to highlight the major deficiency in disease reporting of pig and poultry diseases in this province that has long been present.

Reporting system and the role of provincial laboratories

In the Eastern Cape, animal disease detection in village communities depends largely on the passive surveillance of pigs and poultry due to lack of human and financial resources from veterinary services. Some surveillance occurs commercially using the private laboratories outside the province, but this targets primarily the commercial sector. It is therefore likely that non-controlled diseases are not reported, especially when there is poor communication between the private sector (private veterinarians and private laboratories) and the provincial veterinary services. Active surveillance is compulsory only for export purposes (commercial farms) and is mainly for avian influenza and ND (ostriches), CSF and African swine fever (ASF) for pigs. The surveillance in the communal area (rural sector) depends on the availability of the budget and it is not done on a regular basis. The province is only equipped with three state veterinary laboratories which assist veterinary services in animal disease diagnostics and advise on the control and prevention. Unfortunately, these laboratories did not have a proper database which could be used extensively in this study. Only one laboratory could provide an electronic record of a few cases seen from 2012. It is important to mention that these provincial laboratories rely on the national laboratories for advanced diagnostic technologies, which sometimes cause a delay in finalising results and a delay in databases being updated. Private veterinarians can also send diagnostic samples directly to the national laboratory and receive results back without informing the local state veterinarians whose responsibility is to compile a comprehensive monthly report on controlled and notifiable diseases for their area. For controlled diseases, however, the accredited diagnostic veterinary laboratory is obligated by a directive to inform the state veterinarian and DALRRD directly about the results at the same time the submitter receives them.

By reviewing the references from all databases of Web of Science, it was found that the number of references reporting on diseases on the communal farms was higher (42.3%) than the number of references reporting on diseases on the commercial farms (38.5%). The references reporting on diseases on both communal and commercial farms during the same study were 11.5%, whereas three references representing 7.7% were reporting on a disease found in an abattoir. However, from the national database, it was impossible to establish whether the reported diseases were coming from the commercial or the communal farms.

By analysing the national database, the review found that ND, coccidiosis and FP were the most reported avian diseases, whereas AIB, ND and HPAI were the most reported diseases from the OIE database. For pig diseases, CSF was the most reported disease in both databases. It is suspected that these diseases were the most reported due to their outbreaks across the province in the previous years rather than active surveillance. The 2020 ASF outbreak was not found in the national database but was found on the WAHID interface database, probably because there was no update of the national database during this review, which covers the period 1993 to 2019. The review highlights the fact that the national database is less accurate in recording non-controlled disease incidence, like Gumboro and AIB, which are known to be endemic in the province (Simbizi, 2021), because it is not mandatory to report these diseases.

The limited published data, particularly on non-controlled diseases in the ECP, emphasises the need to encourage researchers to investigate animal diseases in the province.

Zoonotic diseases found in the review

A number of zoonotic diseases have been reported in the ECP. For avian influenza, a few studies identified the circulating strains (HPAI H5N2) in ostriches (Abolnik et al. 2009) and in chickens and wild birds (HPAI H5N8) (OIE 2020a). The significance of this finding in terms of human health in the province is unknown.

Despite the high number of reported cases of ND found in this study, there was no recent study investigating this disease and the circulating strains in the local poultry population. Such a study would help to understand the epidemiology of this disease for better prevention and control.

A few studies on cysticercosis (Taenia solium) in animals were done in the province, but they seemed to be limited to two districts (Alfred Nzo & OR Tambo) (Krecek et al. 2008; Krecek et al. 2012). This is surprising considering in 2004, an estimated 34 662 neurocysticercosis-associated cases of epilepsy were found in the ECP. The overall monetary burden (in million of US$) was estimated to vary from US$ 18.6 to US$ 34.2 depending on the method used to estimate productivity losses (Carabin et al. 2006). Currently, this cost is likely to have increased given the fact that this study was done sixteen years ago. Another study on neurocysticercosis in the ECP had found that the Xhosa-speaking people of ECP had the highest prevalence of cysticercosis in South Africa probably due to the common practice of free-range pig farming and the lack of sanitation in these areas (Mafojane et al. 2003) as well as illegal slaughtering and selling of pig meats without prior meat inspection. The latter finding has been confirmed in a recent survey on trading practices of rural pig farmers in the province (Simbizi et al. 2021).

The poor sanitation in the province and the use of swine waste as manure to improve the farm yields have been mentioned as risk factors for emerging pathogens like Hepatitis E (Adelabu et al. 2017) and Norovirus (Taku et al. 2017) found in this review. Such practices will also contribute to the propagation of diseases such as Salmonella, Escherichia coli, Campylobacter and Enterococcus infections found in this review and contribute to the risk of food poisoning in rural communities of ECP. These diseases become more significant when one considers that the rate of HIV/AIDS infections in the province is among the highest in the country (Abong'o & Momba 2008).

An interesting finding was the lack of reports on diseases that one would expect to be present. Diseases like leptospirosis would have been expected to be found given the large rural pig population in the province (STATS 2016) and the fact that some serovars are maintained in pigs (Ellis 2015). With the Eastern Cape being, economically, one of the poorest provinces of South Africa, the public health impact of these neglected diseases requires further investigation.



This paper reviews the current knowledge on pig and poultry diseases in the rural ECP with emphasis on data from 2000 to 2020. The study found that the retrieved literature was very scarce, and little has been published on pig and poultry diseases in the ECP. Hence decision makers do not currently have reliable prior knowledge upon which to direct animal health interventions or implement public health programmes aimed at reducing the incidence of zoonotic diseases. Important neglected diseases appear not to have been studied. An improved animal health information system and further targeted research based on this study are required to fill this gap in knowledge.

Poor communication between important disease reporting stakeholders in the province was reflected in the review through disparities in data sources and it is recommended that this be improved. Improved communication between the national department (DALRRD) and the National Institute of Communicable Diseases will increase awareness about the zoonotic diseases found in this review and help to minimise their impact on the livelihoods of the rural communities. It is recommended, therefore, that a disease reporting system in the province involving all the stakeholders be considered to provide current relevant information on pig and poultry diseases. This will provide a foundation for sound decision making around disease control and international trade in live animals and animal products.

Author contributions

V Simbizi conducted the literature review, analysed and interpreted the data under the supervision of B Gummow. V Simbizi wrote the article under the supervision of B Gummow. All authors assisted in the editing and critiquing of the manuscript.


Grahamstown Provincial Veterinary Laboratory for allowing access to the laboratory records; Middleburg Provincial Veterinary Laboratory for allowing access to the laboratory records.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that no conflict of interest.

Funding source

No funding was required.

Data availability statement

A list of figures and tables that have associated raw data are included as appendices.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any affiliated agency of the authors.

Ethical approval

This article followed all ethical standards for carrying out research without direct contact with human or animal subjects.


V Simbizi

R Moerane

G Ramsay

C Mubamba

C Abolnik

Β Gummow



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Appendix 2 - Click to enlarge











Appendix 7: List of databases from Web of Science used in the study:

WOS: Web of Science Core Collection

BCI: Biosis Citation Index

CABI: CAB Abstracts®& Global Health®

CCC: Current Contents Connect

DRCI: Data Citation Index

DIIDW: Derwent Innovations Index

FSTA: Food Science and Technology Abstract

KJD: Korean Journal Database


RSCI: Russian Science Citation Index

SciELO: SciELO Citation Index

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